Why Buildings Collapse: Dr. Manduku Speaks

NCA Executive Director Dr. Daniel Manduku was featured in a news item highlighting collapsing structures within the country.
The feature, titled ‘Towers of Impunity’ aired on NTV on Sunday, 17th December.

Stakeholders in the industry have argued some of the issues stem from the number of multiple players involved, such as the registration bodies of consultants, county governments, the National Building Inspectorate and the National Construction Authority.

“A construction failure is bound to happen if any of the five agencies does not do its work,” Dr. Manduku said. “Each major player in the construction industry is regulated by different laws. The National Construction Authority Act is just one of the laws, because we don’t regulate the conduct of professionals such as architects and engineers, we don’t approve drawings as that is the purview of the Physical Planning Act domiciled with the counties, we don’t give environmental licenses as that falls under NEMA (National Environmental Management Agency) and we don’t control clients or developers. The law needs to be more compelling in order to ensure the developer uses construction professionals.”

“Corruption is certainly a possibility,” Dr. Manduku continued, “as the industry is a chain…and a chain is as strong as its weakest link.”

Solutions have long since been sought. The National Building Inspectorate was formed as a result of a presidential directive following the Huruma collapse in April 2016, which eventually claimed 52 lives. The mandate of the Inspectorate, whose members are drawn from NCA, county governments and several other state agencies, was to bring synergy in the regulation of the industry.

“What we need in order to deal with this problem effectively is to adopt best practice: let all the approvals be done under one umbrella. Regardless of the many laws, we are still one country and we still all have the same end goal. Clients do not need to visit multiple agencies in order to seek approval, and this is what NCA has been advocating for. However, we must amend some of the laws in order to accommodate that,” Dr. Manduku said.

Collapsed structures can also be attributed to lack of enforcement. NCA relies on county governments and the Kenya Police in order to enforce closure notices of buildings that have been found non-compliant with the quality assurance checklist. The building that collapsed in Kisii County on 11th October, 2017 is an example. The NCA South Nyanza Regional Office formally wrote to the area police, informing them that the site was in breach of the law, and requesting for assistance with enforcement of the suspension notice.
“The reason for suspension of works on that site was because the approved building plans only allowed for three stories, yet the construction had exceeded by two additional floors. That case is particularly sad because NCA officers had visited that site just a week before the collapse, and requested the Police to enforce the closure notice as it was a dangerous site. It was unfortunate that 8 lives were lost, and yet that could have been avoided,” Dr. Manduku said. “Construction is a science. We do mathematical calculations to determine the number of floors. If a building has been designed for three floors, it should only be built up to the third floor. Any additional floors are bound to cause a structural failure.”

NCA has successfully evacuated several buildings found to be potential disasters, most recently in Kasarani. Despite the few structures that have collapsed over the years, compliance has increased since the Authority was enacted five years ago.

There have also been instances when suspension notices have been successfully enforced. NCA filed suit in the Environment and Land Court in Nairobi, Thika and Kajiado against developers who defied suspension of construction works notices, obtaining injunctions barring the relevant parties from proceeding with construction, and in two of the cases, an order was issued compelling the Officer Commanding the related police station to enforce the suspension notice.

Enforcement powers are some of the key issues being looked at in the revision of the NCA Act.